Chesapeake Native Gardens: Top Bloomers for May

April Showers? Check. May Flowers? Yes!

woodland phlox and creeping phlox blooming in May

After the profuse flowers of spring, and before the bounty of summer perennials arrive, our May garden often is a sea of green, not necessarily a bad thing, but I love to have color throughout the growing season. This year, for the first time, we do have a bit of color in May so I am sharing what's blooming in case you too are looking to add more color to your May. Of course, where you are and your garden conditions make a big difference. I garden in mostly dappled shade in the central part of the Chesapeake watershed. Your results may differ!


Holdovers from April (aka Long Bloomers):

Creeping Phlox

Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) is an easy to grow, shade loving perennial with profuse blooms in whites, blues and lavenders in April lasting well into May.These plants spread fairly readily too. In our garden, foliage is semi-evergreen. To buy 'sherwood purple' from Plant More Natives, click here.


Foamflower

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a ground cover for partial to full shade with average to moist soil. This woodland plant thrives in moist shade and will begin to send out runners which ultimately create a colony of plants.. Once established, foamflower requires no maintenance. To buy foamflower from Direct Native Plants, click here.


Wild Hyacinth

Wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) is a native bulb that flowers on 1 to 2' stems in April and May. These delicate flowers bunched at the tip of stems have a great presence. Read more about these bulbs here.


Golden Alexander

Golden alexanders (Zizia) are some of the longest blooming flowers in our garden. They bud up as early as late March and bloom right through April and May into June. They bloom well in dappled shade and can also take a part sun. These plants will self seed. They are also quite tough - they even grow well in the compacted soils of the tree lawns in deep shade -- the area between the sidewalk and street. To purchase golden alexander from Plant More Natives, click here.


Newly Blooming

Eastern Blue Star

Eastern Blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana) grows in sun and dappled shade. Eastern blue star is easy to grow because it tolerates dry, medium and moist soil, full sun, part sun and part shade and deer. Like all plants, eastern blue stars need regular watering until established. The Missouri Botanical Garden recommends cutting plants back to 6 inches high after flowering to ensure plants don't flop later in summer. I have never tried that but can say that with no cut back, they grow upright in full sun. Flopping may be more of an issue in part shade. These perennials also take a bit of patience. They really need four years to get well established. Then they will turn into robust plants. More about amsonias here. Direct Native plants has eastern blue star for sale online.


Eastern Columbine

Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a small perennial with delicate foliage that sends up 2 to 3 foot stalks of incredibly intricate red and yellow flowers in spring. These flowers en masse are stunning. They are small so be sure to plant them where you can view them up close. They thrive in moist soils though will grow in drier conditions in part shade or sun. If the area is moist, the foliage may last well into summer. To purchase by mail from Plant More Natives, click here.


Green and Gold

Green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) is a great ground cover for dappled shade and part sun. It spreads easily, needs no care and blooms in May with small yellow flowers brightening shady spots. Plant More Natives has this available by mail.


Dwarf Crested Iris

Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) is a fairly fast spreading ground cover in shade with blooms in May. The short foliage lasts through summer and is an excellent texture contrast to other plants. I have noticed that it blooms, even for nearby neighbors, at very different times so your bloom time may definitely differ. To purchase by mail from Plant More Natives, click here.


Woodland Phlox

Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) is a low growing, shade loving perennial with fragrant blooms in May. Mt. Cuba has a detailed report on different types of phlox and their attributes here. Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon' and 'May Breeze' are commonly available cultivars. To buy 'Blue Moon' from Plant More Natives, click here. To buy 'May Breeze' from Plant More Natives, click here.


Woodland Stonecrop

Woodland stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) is a very low growing ground cover that adds great texture to the garden. It readily spreads and seeks the conditions it likes. The more moisture the more sun it can take. I had repeatedly tried to grow a carpet of it beneath certain trees yet it always ended up moving somewhere else. I now let it grow where it may. A few quarts planted now in shade can easily spread to a series of small carpets of sedum in 5 years or so. It blooms in May with white flowers. It also grows well in containers.


Sourcing

All of these plants are commonly available at native plant nurseries and sometimes in garden centers too. While mail order sources are listed for convenience, there is nothing like seeing the plants first and having a chance to talk with the experts at the nurseries. Always need to note, Nuts for Natives has no financial connection to any business - just promoting native plants!


I'm hoping all those April (and May!) showers have brought you flowers. Do you have other May bloomers in your garden? Please do share!

We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

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Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.